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Migraine May Be Linked to ADHD in Adults

Migraine May Be Linked to ADHD in Adults

A new Danish study has found a link between migraine and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. The findings, published in the open access journal BMC Neurology, show the association is particularly pronounced in those who experience visual disturbances (aura) with migraine.

Previous research has shown a link between migraine and ADHD in children and adolescents, but the association has not been assessed in adults or otherwise healthy populations. In addition, migraine has been linked to other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and researchers say this comorbidity may partly be explained by shared genetics.

The authors speculate that the comorbidity between ADHD and migraine may arise from pleiotropic effects – one gene influencing more than one trait – that also underlie other psychiatric disorders. Therefore, researching the link between ADHD and migraine in adults may give scientists a better understanding of the underpinnings of these disorders.

For the study, researchers at the University Hospital of Copenhagen in Denmark looked at the data of 26,456 participants, ages 18 to 65 (46% female), who were enrolled in the Danish Blood Donor study. Participants were assessed for migraine and ADHD with clinically validated questionnaires and self-reports.

The findings show that migraine was strongly associated with ADHD. There was a significant interaction between age and gender, with comorbidity increasing with age and female sex.

Specifically, 24.2% (6,390) of participants screened positive for migraine, 2.61% (690) screened positive for ADHD and 0.90% (238) reported having both migraine and ADHD. Further analysis showed that migraine with visual disturbance was generally associated with a marginally higher risk of ADHD.

This statistically significant comorbidity rate of migraine and ADHD appears to be most prevalent in participants older than 40 years of age, which may suggest that comorbidity manifests later in life. In addition, ADHD is more common in young people, and it is possible that ADHD and its symptoms could mask the presence of migraine in that population.

Future studies may help researchers better understand which genetic and environmental factors contribute to migraine-ADHD comorbidity.

Migraine is a complex headache disorder with a lifetime prevalence of 16–18%. Migraine is twice as prevalent in females, and onset is typically between adolescence and the late 50s.  Response to migraine treatment varies considerably and around 20% of migraine patients treated pharmacologically experience no symptom relief. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraine is the sixth most disabling disease in the world with high financial costs to society.

Source: BMC Neurology

Migraine May Be Linked to ADHD in Adults

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Migraine May Be Linked to ADHD in Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Oct 2018 (Originally: 20 Oct 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Oct 2018
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